How is it to drive in France?

Old Jun 29th, 2008, 02:13 AM
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How is it to drive in France?

We're thinking about renting a car in France. Maybe take the train from Paris to Narmandy, but then rent a car from Paris down to the wine regions and Nice. Would you recommend the train or driving yourself?
schnookies is offline  
Old Jun 29th, 2008, 02:32 AM
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Great! My husband and I just got back from France and we spent three weeks driving in France. The roads are well maintained, marked and they have great lane discipline. I recommend a good GPS system. Also, you might consider renting the care in Paris, trust me it is easy to get out of the city.

Have a great time in France, it is truly a beautiful country and the people are just wonderful.

Make sure you eat a lot of apple tartin/tart.
cafegoddess is offline  
Old Jun 29th, 2008, 03:02 AM
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I prefer driving in France to driving here in Orlando. At least there most people follow the rules of the road. It's also great fun to get off the A and N roads and travel on the smaller Droads thru gorgeous countryside.
avalon is offline  
Old Jun 29th, 2008, 03:27 AM
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Except in Paris, driving in France is really quite easy. Roads are well-maintained and well-signed. Tolls and gas can be expensive, but I still wouldn't trade the flexibility of having a car when venturing to more rural areas like Normandy and the wine regions.
travelgourmet is offline  
Old Jun 29th, 2008, 03:37 AM
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I like driving in France. As other posters have said, French drivers are usually very disciplined.

A word of advice, though: you might want to search here on the Europe forum for previous discussions on rules of the road and navigation techniques. Try using a phrase like "driving in France" to pull up old threads.

You might also Google something like "road signs in France" to find other web sites that offer tips.

If your French is up to it, there is also a site with the rules of the road, illustrations of the signs, and explanation of what they mean:

AnselmAdorne is online now  
Old Jun 29th, 2008, 03:39 AM
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That should work better.

AnselmAdorne is online now  
Old Jun 29th, 2008, 04:28 AM
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Very easy driving in France, as other posters have said. I would follow your original thought to train to Normandy, especially if you are arriving in Paris after an overnight flight. You can nap and relax on the train and start driving after you are refreshed.

My one experience driving out of Paris would prevent me from doing it again. We spent an hour on the Peripherique, in bumper to bumper traffic, to get from CDG to the highway on the south side - not pleasant.
adrienne is offline  
Old Jun 29th, 2008, 04:35 AM
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I particularly recommend the toll autoroutes if you want to go long distances. They have got to be the emptiest and fastest roads in the world with good service areas. Good advice to stay clear of Paris, and August, when France stops and drives somewhere.
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Old Jun 29th, 2008, 04:52 AM
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We've done it twice, and both times my husband was the sole driver (I can't drive a stick shfit). The first time, we had to go around the Arc de Triomphe, all 12 lanes of traffic. That was a harrowing experience, but we made it. We were on our way to Chartres. That trip we drove through the Loire Valley, over to Burgundy, then to Switzerland, Germany and back into France to Normandy, where we dropped off our car in Dieppe to get on a ferry to London. We did a lot of driving, and that was pre-GPS or even detailed Michelin maps that we have since downloaded from the internet. Driving was a breeze. Our second driving trip was 4 years ago, and again, we started off in Paris, but did not have to get to the other side of the city to get onto the Peripherique. We drove to Burgundy, Jura Mountains, into Switzerland, back into France near Strasbourg, Paris (had to drop off one of our passengers to catch a flight home), and finally to Normandy. We returned the car at CDG the night before our flight home. Once again, according to my husband, driving was actually enjoyable. He thought the French (and Swiss, too) drivers are much better than American drivers. Last year we rented a car in Italy for a couple of days. That experience wasn't quite as enjoyable, but I must say that Italian roads are also well marked and fairly easy to navigate. We just had a harder time with the language. But we still were able to get around. It was the crowds in the Tuscan hill towns that we could not manage and trying to find a parking space that thwarted our plans to stop and explore. That was never a problem in France, especially in towns in the Jura Mountains.
freberta is offline  
Old Jun 29th, 2008, 05:01 AM
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The toll roads are a nightmare any summer weekend from now on until Spetember, especially those to the south. As for being the fastest - well they do have a speed limit on them, unlike the Autobahn, and the fines can be very painful.
The joy of driving in France (or anywhere else) is to get off the motorways and onto the two lane roads and enjoy the countryside and the driving.
Learn the road signs before you go and the priority rules and the like, and have a great time.
Oh and make sure your hire car has a reflective jacket with it - it is now compulsory to wear one if you have a breakdown. The law only applies to French cars and drivers, but the police are not necessarily aware of that. Besides it is safer to wear one no matter what the law says.
hetismij is offline  
Old Jun 29th, 2008, 05:29 AM
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Fine. French roads are--for the most part--well maintained. Toll autoroutes can be pricey, though.

One caveat: check the maps beforehand. You may find that the first signed exit for a town may not be the best one. For example, while traveling from Paris to Bourges, the first signed exit for Bourges is many miles away from the city (although you can get there by that route).
BTilke is offline  
Old Jun 29th, 2008, 07:01 AM
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Hi S,

> a car from Paris down to the wine regions and Nice.<

Are you planning to take a few days to get to Nice?

If not, take the train from Paris and use the car to drive through the wine regions, etc.

Driving is very easy.

A: The cars in the roundabout (LEFT) have the right of way.

B: At intersections, the car on the RIGHT has the right of way.

C: As soon as you see the sign that you are entering a town, the speed limit drops to 50 kph, even if it is not marked.

D: Don't try to buy gas on Sunday.

E: In most parking lots, you are issued a ticket upon entry.
There will be automatic machines where you insert the ticket and pay before you exit.

Enjoy your visit.

ira is offline  
Old Jun 29th, 2008, 07:22 AM
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At intersections cars from the right have right of way - unless you are on a priority road, marked with an orange lozenge inside a white lozenge. Then you have right of way.
As I said familiarise yourself with the road signs - I'm sure the AAA can provide you with information on such things.
hetismij is offline  
Old Jun 29th, 2008, 08:16 AM
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Driving in France is a breeze, but I wouldn't plan a trip the way you appear to be planning yours.

I would drive to Normandy and take the train from Paris to Nice. Not sure what you mean by "the wine regions." France has hundreds of wine regions, so it's hard to figure out where you're headed, except eventually south.

If you don't want to drive out of Paris, you could take a train to Caen or Bayeux and begin the first leg of your trip there. Then return the car in Paris and take the TGV south and rent another car for the remainder of the voyage.
StCirq is online now  
Old Jun 29th, 2008, 08:26 AM
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I found the following from and it has been very helpful in preparing for my road trip through Europe. Hope this helps!

Drivers should be prepared to make last-minute maneuvers, as most French drivers do. The French
typically drive more aggressively and faster than Americans, and tend to exceed posted speed limits.
Right-of-way rules in France may differ from those in the United States. Drivers entering intersections from the right have priority over those on the left (unless specifically indicated otherwise), even when entering relatively large boulevards from small side streets. Many intersections in France are being
replaced by traffic circles, where the right-of-way belongs to drivers in the circle.

On major highways, service stations are situated at least every 25 miles. Service stations are not
as plentiful on secondary roads in France as they are in the United States.

Paris, the capital and largest city in France, has an extensive and efficient public transportation
system. The interconnecting system of buses, subways, and commuter rails serves more than 4 million people a day with a safety record comparable to or better than the systems of major American cities.
libssmfamily is offline  
Old Jun 29th, 2008, 10:34 AM
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Driving in France is very easy - road signs are good and drivers take rules of the road much more seriously than in the US (where even a chimp could get a license). I wouldn;t reco renting a car for a long trip (more than 2 hours or so) right off the plane - but other than that you should be fine.

Do plan on having both people share the driving - since it makes it easier on both - and is only fair in terms of sightseeing and navigating.

We've driven into and out of Paris several times and had no problems - but then we're used to driving in NYC (which is much more difficult than Paris).
nytraveler is offline  
Old Jun 29th, 2008, 10:52 AM
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I've always found driving in France to be very easy.

A few years ago my husband was riding his bicycle in L'etape du Tour, which is a stage of the tour de France that is open to everyone. The race was from Limoges to St fleur. While he rode the course of 130 miles I had to drive a roundabout route to get to St Fleur because the roads were closed for the race.

So I drove on the Autoroutes, and through the tiny villages and mountains of the area. I ended up having to drive almost 250 miles by myself. I had only the Michelin maps and the ones that the race organizers had given accompaneiurs.
I had no trouble at all. I got lost a few times, but the roads are well marked and with good maps I quickly found my way to the right road. With GPS now it would be easier, but I was just as comfortable with only the paper maps.

You'll have no problem, but as others have suggested, go to the web sites and download examples of the signage so you'll be more comfortable when encounter them on the road.

Have a great time, we'll visit France again next year and I'm counting the days already.
Celticharper is offline  
Old Jun 29th, 2008, 11:15 AM
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No problem driving in France. When visiting Normandy and Brittany, we picked up our car at CDG and it was well marked to head north. Parking in towns was never a problem, either.

Once you've experienced the freedom of stopping when and where you wish you'll opt for car over train whenever possible.

Have a great trip!
MelJ is offline  
Old Jun 29th, 2008, 11:56 AM
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I have two questions:

AnselmAdorne: I can sort of decipher written French language from my high school french (30 yrs ago). Would there happen to be an English version of the webpage you listed?

I live in Iowa, but have traveled to larger cities. Would traveling rural French roads be similar to our rural Iowa roads, or more like driving on an interstate such as I80?
Sunnyshine is offline  
Old Jun 29th, 2008, 11:58 AM
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Driving in France is an absolute delight, including in Paris.

Of course for city driving, you should already be familiar with city driving elsewhere. City people do not like hesitation. I found that out in New York.
analogue is offline  

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